River Hill running back Aaron Wells is known for his strong inside-the-tackles style. His backfield mate Evan Griffin, a standout baseball player, prefers to run to the outside. Quarterback Raamah Vaughn is a shifty runner in his own right.
Against No. 8 Atholton in a Maryland 3A East region final in Columbia on Friday night, this different blend of running styles formed a potent rushing trio, good enough to upset the Raiders, 21-12.
The three Hawks rushed for 245 yards against a defense that held it previous four opponents scoreless. The 5-foot-8, 192-pound Wells (142 yards on 29 carries) provided the muscle, the 5-foot-10, 155-pound Griffin (52 yards on 10 carries) added a change of pace on the edge and the 5-foot-9, 165-pound Vaughn (51 yards on 15 carries) directed the offense with his speed.
“We had a great week of practice,” said Vaughn, who only attempted two passes. “It wasn’t that easy but we just had great blocking.”
River Hill (10-2) will host Aberdeen (10-2), the 3A North champion, in the state semifinals.
After falling behind, 6-0, in the first quarter, the Hawks scored on consecutive drives in the second. Nineteen plays were called, all runs. Wells scored on a one-yard run and a 29-yard scamper. “I thank my offensive line for everyone of those yards,” he said.
Atholton quarterback Brian McMahon (160 total yards and a touchdown) and running back Kenny Thomas (114 yards and a touchdown) engineered a fourth-quarter drive to pull the Raiders (10-2) within two points late.
But River Hill’s defense, which forced three turnovers in the game, snuffed out a fake punt on the next drive that helped set up an eight-yard Vaughn run to the edge for the game’s final score with two minutes left, a welcome cushion.
For the Hawks, the win was more than just their sixth region title in the past seven years. It was a reminder to their opponents that they are still a team to be reckoned with. River Hill, which won state titles in 2007 and 2008, had its 48-game winning streak against Howard County opponents snapped by Atholton last season. The Raiders topped them again earlier this season, 14-0.
But on Friday, it was sweet revenge.
“It’s huge,” Vaughn said. “It’s great to come back. There’s been talk about River Hill being dead but we put that all to shame. We can win.”